East-West: New Visions of Asian American and Postcolonial Writing

Open—Year

There is an orientalism in the most restless pioneer, and the farthest west is but the farthest east. —Thoreau

This course moves restlessly between two cardinal directions: currents of migration from Asia to North America in the 20th century and countercurrents of desire from the New World seeking the wisdom of the East. The different travelers sometimes seem invisible to each other as they silently pass and, at other times, seem to be moving in both directions—torn between the American dream and American beatitude. We will look at the history of Asian American immigrant writing for the truth behind the dream—and also at writings that record the experiences of exiles, refugees, travelers, tourists, journalists, monks, activists, gurus, and poets—for the stories they tell about desires oriented by an entirely different dream. This course examines migration history and postcolonial theory along with a broad range of literature, including diasporic writers connected to East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.